This article is intended primarily for non-Muslims and it will be written in a biographical fashion by closely following Mohammed's life. We will explain in chronological order his 'revelations', his actions, and how they affect the Islamic beliefs. We will rely primarily on Islamic doctrine and on Islamic commentary written by Muslims themselves, with some further explanation whenever necessary.
But before we delve into scripture we will start with a basic introduction followed by a discussion about terrorism, and finishing with the topic of religion and Muslims.
Muslims believe Islam is the last of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions, which Muslims believe was revealed to Muhammad by Allah through the angel Gabriel and written down in the Qur'an. Muslims believe that Muhammad was Allah's final prophet and the perfect human being who is to be emulated by all Muslims for all time. The Sunnah, which was Muhammad's way of life and is the prescribed way of life for Muslims, was revealed to Muslims through the biographies of Mohammed, called the Hadith.
There are estimated to be 1.5 billion adherents, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world. Under the leadership of Muhammad and his successors, Islam rapidly spread by religious conversion and military conquest (Jihad).
Lissan al-Arab, one of the most authoritative lexicons of the Arabic language, mentions that the word 'Islam' is derived from the root verb istaslama (استسلاما); which means 'to submit' or 'give in' or 'surrender', while the term salam (سلام) means peace, a truce, or a non-warring state.
The word Islam derives from the Arabic triconsonantal root sīn-lām-mīm (SLM [ س ل م ]). Many different words are created from this root word by inserting different vowels between the three root consonants. Many English speakers wrongly assume that if two Arabic words share the same root word then their meanings are related when in reality the fact that some words share the same root word does not imply a relationship between the meanings of the words. For instance, all of these words are derived from the root S-L-M:
|Many people have wrongly attempted to equate the word Islam with peace by showing that Islam, meaning 'submission', shares a root word with Salaam, meaning 'peace'. But if such relationships between the meanings of Arabic words can be created then that would imply that there is a relationship between one of the derivations of the infinitive Salama, meaning the stinging of the snake or tanning the leather, and Salam, meaning peace; a relationship which obviously does not exist.|
It must first be recognized that not all Muslims are terrorists and that not all terrorists are Muslim. There are terrorists and terrorist organizations that are non-Muslim and there are many Muslims who do not commit terrorist acts. Furthermore, not all terrorist acts that are committed by Muslims are motivated by Islam. What we are interested in is terrorism that has Islam as one of its primary motivations.
We will distinguish between terrorism committed by Muslims and Islamic terrorism, that is, terrorism that has Islam as one of its primary motivations. Clearly all Islamic terrorism is terrorism committed by Muslims, but it is not correct to say that all terrorism committed by Muslims is Islamic terrorism. Some terrorist acts that are committed by Muslims do not have Islam as one of their primary motivators.
There are many misconceptions about the causes of Islamic terrorism, such as that Islamic terrorism is caused by poverty or geopolitical tensions. Although these are popular beliefs they are not the reality. For instance, poverty is often said to be the cause of Islamic terrorism but this argument ignores the fact that Islamic terrorism transcends economic lines to include the wealthy Osama bin Laden, the middle class like many European Islamic terrorists, and the poor like many Palestinians. Marc Sageman, from the Foreign Policy Research Institute, writes:
There is no "war on terrorism"; Islamic terrorism is a symptom of a much deeper problem within Islamic scripture.
Modern critiques of Islam include accusations that it is intolerant of criticism and that Islamic law is too hard on apostates. After a detailed project undertaken to study Islam, Qur'an and Hadiths, the Pentagon has concluded that "Islam is an ideological engine of war (Jihad)." Critics such as Robert Spencer and Ibn Warraq question the morality of the Qur'an; for example, they say that its contents both justify the ill-treatment of women and encourage antisemitic remarks by Muslim theologians.
The Arabian peninsula can be divided into two contrasting climatic regions. The South along the coast receives regular rainfall and has abundant plant life, while the north consists of an inhospitable desert with few rivers which resulted in its people living lives that were far more isolated than the lives of the southerners. This Southern region is occupied by Sabaeans who developed successful and advanced civilizations, but by the seventh century this region had fallen into disarray.
The North-East is especially inhospitable with little water and little plant life, except for the date palm. It has a barren desert environment with extremes in climate that vary from warm to extremely hot and life is at a subsistence level. Due to its harsh environment this area has been inhabited by Bedouin Arabs who are nomadic pastors that have lived in small tribal groups for most of their history. Further to the West along the coast there existed oases that were occupied by prosperous sedentary Arabs who themselves had once been Bedouins Arabs. Due to the importance of this land, all parts of these oases were possessed by sedentary Arabs thereby forcing the Bedouins Arabs to live in the interior of the peninsula, away from the coasts.
In the Bedouin Arab society, women were dehumanized, and child marriages and female infanticide were common. With life as an on-going struggle against the forces of nature that comprise of desert storms and a bleak and monotonous environment, the mental make-up of the Bedouin Arabs has been shaped by the dictum of kill or be killed, even before Islam was founded.
This has been the psyche of the Bedouin Arabs who inhabited the inner Arabian peninsula. The people who came from the same stock and who lived further north in Mesopotamia had a different geographic and climatic environment. They developed advanced riparian civilizations on the banks of the Farath (Euphrates) and Tigra (Tigris) rivers. The Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations of Hamm-ur-rabi, Assur-bin-ipal and Nabu-chad-nazar, were developed by the same Semitic people who lived in peninsular Arabia. So the temperament of a same ethnic people (the Arabs) could be entirely different, depending on the environment in which they resided.
Arabian Religions, Mecca, and the Quraysh
One of the most important economic and religious cities in pre-Islamic Arabia was the city of Mecca. Mecca was home to the Ka'bah, a giant cube that was central to pagan worship and which once housed dozens of pagan Gods, the most prominent of which were Allah and his three daughters al-Uzza, al-Lat, and Manat. Mecca's central role in Arabian pagan religion supplied the city with many pilgrims and traders and allowed it to become a prosperous center of trade. The pagan Quraysh tribe was the most prominent and influential tribe in Mecca, and it was to this tribe that Mohammed was born.
Christians and Jews also lived in Arabia. Christians lived around Najran, modern day Yemen, and groups of Christians who had left the Byzantine Empire were scattered around Arabia. The Lakhid kingdom in Norther Arabia and the Ghassanid kingdom in northwestern Arabia were also Christian; and there were powerful and important Jewish tribes in the Khaybar oasis and Yemen. In Medina there were three powerful Jewish tribes: Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayzah and Banu Qaynuqa.
Components of Islam
- Fastest Growing Religion - common claim made by Muslims
- Statistics - statistics relating to Muslims around the world
- Quotations - quotes from famous Muslims and non-Muslims
- Islam: A Critical Analysis - is Islam from Allah or a human religion?
- Islamization of Knowledge
Core articles contain an overview of other articles related to a specific issue, and serve as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn about Islam:
- Islam and Apostasy
- Islam and Homosexuality
- Islam and Miracles
- Islam and Pedophilia
- Islam and Propaganda
- Islam and Science
- Islam and Scripture
- Islam and the People of the Book
- Islam and Women
References and Citations
- Teece, Geoff. Religion in Focus: Islam. Smart Apple Media. p. 10, 2005.
- "Suicide bombers follow Quran, concludes Pentagon briefing", World Net Daily News, worldnetdaily.com, September 27, 2006.
- Sperry, Paul. "The Pentagon Breaks the Islam Taboo", FrontPage Magazine, FrontPageMagazine.com, December 14, 2005.